Understanding The Bible
E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
THE CANON OF SCRIPTURE
The student is to be warned not to allow the facts to be colored by our modern way of doing things. The question is why did the nation Israel at that time (BC) divide the OT in such a way. Note also that sometimes Lamentations was counted with Jeremiah and Ruth with Judges to make the same number of books (22) as the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. This arrangement (of Lamentations and Ruth) would fit well with this theory.
The Law had a
foundational place among the Jews, and although other books were written
from time to time and received as inspired, nevertheless the Law was
kept separate from these books. This amounted to closing the first
section of the Old Testament canon.
The circumstances of the return from Babylon and their experiences as recorded in Ezra-Nehemiah, as well as the need for a final weeding out of uninspired books which may have still been in existence following the captivity, make the tradition plausible.
Furthermore, the presence of the
tradition must be explained, if it is rejected. It cannot be dismissed by
a mere wave of the hand.
This establishes the fact that a
definite set of books had long been settled; also, it is apparent that
general terms could not have been used without explanation to the reader
"For it is not the case with us (Jews) to have vast numbers of books disagreeing and conflicting with one another (as the Greeks had). We have but twenty-two (he uses the later count), containing the history of all time, books that are justly believed in. And of these, five are the books of Moses, which comprise the laws and earliest traditions from the creation of mankind down to the time of his (Moses') death. This period falls short but by little of three thousand years. From the death of Moses to the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, the successor of Xerxes, the prophets who succeeded Moses wrote the history of the events that occurred in their own time in thirteen books. The remaining four documents comprise hymns to God and practical precepts to man. From the days of Artaxerxes to our own time, every event has indeed been recorded. But these recent records have not been deemed worthy of equal credit with those which preceded them, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased. But what faith we have placed in our own writings is evident by our conduct; for though so great an interval of time (i.e., since they were written) has now passed, not a soul has ventured either to add , or to remove, or to alter a syllable. But it is instinctive in all Jews at once from their very birth to regard them as commands of God, and to abide by them, and, if need be, willingly to die for them."
This testimony is the clearest and should be the most conclusive to the unbeliever. He arranges the books into three divisions, the order being changed a little for a legitimate purpose. He gives the number as 22, as per II, B, 2.
The books are clearly recognizable as identical with the OT. He is fully aware that other books have been written since the "exact succession of the prophets ceased" in the time of Artaxerxes (i.e., Ezra's day), but he clearly distinguishes them from the canonical books as unworthy of equal credit.
The fact that he was a
HISTORIAN adds to the already tremendous weight of his testimony.
Certainly He, who was the
Truth, would have strongly denounced any book which was not of God, if
such a book had gotten into the OT canon which was received in His day.
And He would have called attention to any omission of an inspired book.
His absolute silence on any such matter, plus His constant exaltation
of, and appeal to, the OT Scriptures, is the strongest possible seal and
assurance to the fact that these books are inspired of God and
constitute the true OT canon.
* - indicates
unreliable as well as uninspired
# - indicates reliable but uninspired
@ - indicates good ethic but uninspired
Books d. and e. are placed between
Song of Solomon and Isaiah in Roman Catholic Bible.
Books h. and i. come between
Malachi and Matthew in the Roman Catholic Bible
j., k., and 1. were placed after the NT in the Roman Catholic Vulgate
Jerome flatly rejected them, using the 22 canonical books (later numbering) saying: "Anything outside of these must be placed in the Apocrypha." Though he was an ardent Romanist, and strangely enough the translator of the Latin Vulgate (the Roman Catholic Bible), these books were later added to it as a sort of secondary canon.
Pope Clement VII (AD 1378-1394) wrote: "The whole Latin church is greatly indebted to St. Jerome for distinguishing the canonical from the non-canonical books."
Cardinal Cajetan wrote as late as AD 1534, when the issue in the Roman Church as to the place of these books had become very crucial as result of the action of Luther and the other reformers in rejecting them and placing them by them- selves: "We have chosen the rule of Jerome that we may not err in distinguishing the canonical books from those which he delivered to be canonical and which we hold to be canonical. Those which he separated from the canonical books, we hold to be out of the canon."
In spite of such deliverances from revered Roman prelates, "the Church that never changes" added these books to her canonical list at the, Council of Trent. This was not in AD 400, nor 800, nor 1200, but in AD 1546, after she was forced by the Protestant Reformation decision on these books to do the something about her slipshod way of handling them through the centuries.
She-had depended upon the
Apocrypha before this to establish doctrine; it was only logical then that
she declare them of equal authority with the canonical books. And loyal
Catholics, like Cardinal Cajetan, who strenuously opposed this step of
folly, both before and in Council, submitted (even if regretfully) to the
decision of the Church.
This is essentially like we read and profit by Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, without in the slightest suggesting it be put on a par with the Scripture. Any light it has is reflected light from the Scripture of truth!
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